BENGHAZI TERROR COVER-UP
Clinging to the execution of bin Laden as proof of the Obama Administration’s successful handling of the war on terror, the Obama Administration was loathe to admit that terrorists with ties to al Qaeda succeeded in attacking the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, resulting in the death of Ambassador John Christopher Stevens, among others. Several reputable news sources have reported that within twenty four hours of the attack American intelligence services were aware that terrorists were behind it. Lurking beneath that major news story was another troubling set of facts. The embassy in Benghazi had no marine detachment assigned to it and was guarded by a few lightly armed Libyan and American security officers. Calls from the head of security operations in Libya to the State Department for greater security at the embassy were rejected months before the attack. Moreover, a diplomatic cable from Stevens appears to have been sent the very day of the attack, informing U.S. government officials that security at the embassy had been breached and seeking help. Finally, U.S. intelligence services were aware of the presence of al-Qaeda related groups and individuals in Benghazi and of the potential risk to the embassy.
Appearing before the United Nations, President Obama spoke of the attack but refused to mention that it was the work of terrorists and maintained the Administration’s apologia for a Youtube video, “Innocence of Muslims,” which the Administration had, until that point, alleged to be responsible for a “spontaneous” uprising at the embassy. For two weeks after the attack, the official position of the United States as communicated by CIA Director Patraeas to Congress and by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was that “Innocence of Muslims,” produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula under the pseudonym Sam Bacile, triggered a “spontaneous” attack on the embassy. Ambassador Rice, who is likely to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State if there is a second Obama term, told reporters: “What happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction . . . as a consequence of the video, that people gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent.”
But intelligence received and circulated by the Administration during the week after the attack revealed it to be not spontaneous but planned and involving use of automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenades in a barrage upon the consulate and in areas known to be secret locations within the embassy compound. In short, at the very time Administration officials at high levels were stating unequivocally that a spontaneous riot brought down the embassy, they knew or should have known that those statements were unsupported and contradicted.
We must also realize that this event is extraordinary by any reasonable measure. No doubt the President was privy to the fact that Ambassador Stevens was killed and that the embassy was overwhelmed within hours of that happenstance. No doubt he was briefed on the best intelligence associated with the attack, including how it was likely orchestrated and who was likely involved. There can be little doubt that he was told that terrorists appeared to have been involved. Given that it occurred on September 11, undoubtedly the President wanted to know whether the attack was a terrorist event. Because within twenty-four hours of the attack, the evidence of a planned and coordinated terrorist attack on the embassy was circulating in the State Department, the President surely knew of this before that time. Yet neither he nor any other administration official informed the public of the truth, electing instead to identify the Nakoula video as the source of a “spontaneous” riot.
Indeed, during the Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden compounded the initial deception by stating the incredible, that neither he nor the President knew of the terrorist connection until the time two weeks later when the Administration confessed the connection. That willingness to deceive on a point so obvious begs the question whether it is indicative of a more general pattern of deception by this Administration concerning matters of national security.
As Administration officials made public statements tying the attack on the consulate to the release of the Nakoula Youtube video, those same officials were privy to a document linking the event to terrorists, according to Catherine Herridge of Fox News. The Daily Beast likewise reported that “early information” received by the Administration (within twenty-four hours of the attack) “was enough to show that the attack was planned and the work of al Qaeda affiliates operating in Eastern Libya.”
Only after the media seized upon discrepancies in the Administration’s description of events and broke word of the al-Qaeda connection did the Administration finally admit that, indeed, it had been a terrorist attack. The investigative reporting of Eli Lake of The Daily Beast has been particularly difficult for the Administration because Lake unearthed evidence in conflict with Administration public accounts and of an Administration cover-up. Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani are among those publicly claiming that the Administration engaged in a cover-up.
Logic favors such a finding. Certainly it is irresponsible in the extreme for top Administration officials privy to the early proof of terrorist involvement to have presumed the attack associated with Nakoula’s Youtube video when no direct evidence linked the attack to the video. Any reason for doubt as to the source of the attack would lead responsible officials not to claim with certainty that it had been a spontaneous response to the video but to assert with equivocation either that more facts needed to be adduced before a responsible element could be identified or that terrorists may have been involved.
The assertion that Nakoula’s Youtube video triggered the attack is, of course, a political deceit. The Obama Administration’s crown jewel in this re-election campaign has been Obama’s support for the execution of bin Laden. Underlying that narrative is the notion that Americans are safer as a result. No single story line appeared stronger in support of Obama than that one. If Americans were to come to the realization that al-Qaeda operatives could take out an American Ambassador in Libya, that realization could cause them to waiver in their view that Obama’s overall foreign policy had effectively isolated al-Qaeda, leaving it in an ultimate state of extinction. It would also raise anew questions about the prudence of U.S. foreign policy toward Libya, where American military backing of the ouster of Gadafi led to control over that nation by the Muslim Brotherhood.
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Darrell Issa’s House Oversight Committee is now probing into the facts and will likely produce a critical report before the election. The State Department is conducting its own investigation but suggests that its results might not be forthcoming until after the election. There may be much more evidence of negligent conduct and deception to come. At a minimum, we now know enough to conclude that the Administration’s lament (reiterated by Joe Biden in the Vice Presidential debate) that the President and Vice President simply lacked sufficient information to know that terrorists were behind the attack lacks credibility. The Administration certainly knew within twenty-four hours of the attack that it was far more likely that al-Qaeda was behind it than that an obscure Youtube video led to a “spontaneous” riot, and yet the Administration repeatedly lied to the public by proclaiming unequivocally for two weeks that the Nakoula Youtube video was to blame.